Here is the winning entry for the February 2012 Challenge, "Dressing Down", set by TheLoneRedshirt.
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Star Trek: Dawnstar
“Taking A Stand”
Brydon J. Sinclair
Things on Delta Erisandi III had not been as they’d expected; what should have been a straight forward planetary survey had descended into chaos and bloodshed. Had she known exactly how bad things would have gotten and where her self-righteous act of conscience would take her, Rachel Keller had to wonder if she would have done anything differently?
It was the fourth day of her court martial. She stood before the window of the room she had been assigned, patiently waiting to be summoned to Xi Station’s courtroom. The planetary station had been built directly into a small mountain that overlooked a lush purple forest, which was clearly visible from most of the rooms, platforms, balconies and towers of the base. The last three days had been spent in the courtroom, going over the testimony of the rest of the landing party who had been on Delta Erisandi III, as well as the logs and records made by the team at the time, so she had had little chance to take in the natural beauty that Alanda Prime had to offer. This was the day that the court martial triumvirate would hear from the last two people involved: herself and Captain Thavalren ch’Kass.
A surge of anger clenched her stomach, not at the Captain but at his actions. Firstly his bias had kept him for realising what they were dealing with on the planet’s surface, which resulted in the death on one of her staff, then his demand for justice had stopped her from finding a peaceful resolution, as well as seeing another six members of the team injured—two of who were still recovering in sickbay, eleven days after the incident. She began to focus on the details on the survey mission and everything that followed, that she no longer saw the thick, vibrantly coloured foliage or winged lizards that glided past the windows.
The door chimed, breaking her concentration. She looked back at the entrance and called, “Come in.”
The panels swished open loudly. In the corridor outside her room stood two men, one in the dark mustard of the services division, on hand to escort her no matter where she went in the facility, but it was the other who had signalled the enunciator. He was a non-descript middle aged man holding an attaché case in one hand and a datapad in the other, he was in his command gold dress uniform and had the insignia of the Judge Advocate General’s office on the left side of his chest.
He gave her a meek smile. “Are you ready?” Commander Jeremiah Billings asked.
She turned to face him, tugged down on her blue tunic and then nodded. “Ready when you are,” she told him.
Following her lawyer out of her room, they headed towards the courtroom—the burly security guard following close behind. With every step, her nerves intensified and she questioned her actions—knowing that what she was about to face would be far worse than her own self-deprecation.
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The courtroom was cold and bleak. Everything was hard angular lines and coloured in various shades of grey, except for the onyx bench behind which sat the three senior officers who would decide her fate: Vice Admiral Torsh emek Hrag, who was in charge of the entire Fifth Fleet; Commodore Yuna, the CO of Xi Station; and lastly, Captain Donald Tracey, who commanded the U.S.S. Exeter, the fleet’s flagship. All of them looked down on her with an air of disapproval, which only made the knots in her stomach multiply and constrict.
Seated in front of them was the court reporter, who was recording everything that was said and done within the room, her large almond eyes watching everything that went on. There were also three security officers present, one next to the large viewer that dominated one wall, whilst the others stood by each of the exits. There were also two lawyers present; Billings, who sat quietly beside her, and Captain Theresa Clay, who was pacing slowly around the room, eyes focused on the witness stand in the middle of the court. Seated behind her, opposite the bench, were ten of her former shipmates—all of whom had been on the survey team—whilst Captain ch’Kass was on the stand.
He was recounting the events of the mission, answering several questions and prompts that Captain Clay posed to him, before continuing with what happened—from his viewpoint. Keller could feel the muscles in her jaw tighten as she listened to the tale he told, her fists clenched into tight balls on her lap. The way he explained the failed mission was that everything had fallen apart when she had absconded on an unapproved and foolhardy task—one that, he believed, would have added to the number of dead had he not intervened.
As Clay listened she nodded in an understanding manner, even though it was not the first time she had heard his perspective. They obviously had it well rehearsed, as the questions she asked were answered immediately and always cast a bad light on Keller. Each time before Clay asked ch’Kass to continue, the lawyer cast a disparaging look at her.
For Keller’s part, she looked at Commander Billings who watched the on goings quietly. She had heard that he was good, if a little odd in how he did things, but so far in the trial she was yet to be impressed.
Once ch’Kass was finished, Clay thanked him then turned to the bench. “I have no further questions for this witness, sir.”
Hrag, as the ranking officer on the bench, nodded then looked at Billings.
“Commander, do you have any questions for the witness?” the portly Tellarite asked, his little eyes peering out from the deep recesses of his eye sockets.
As Billings stood up, Clay returned to her seat though kept a watchful eye on her opponent. The defence lawyer moved to stand between ch’Kass and the bench. He cleared his throat, clasped his hands behind his back and started to rock a little on his feet as he asked, “Prior to the unfortunate death of Ensign Bartlett, had Commander Keller informed you of her theory?”
“It wasn’t much of a theory,” ch’Kass began, “more a belief based on only a couple hours of observation.”
“But she did tell you what she believed, didn’t she?” the rocking back and forth continued.
“She did yes.”
“But it was your belief that she was wrong about the Erisandian?”
Ch’Kass’ eyes narrowed. “We had not found time to give the beasts a name,” he stated, his tone cold.
“My apologies, Captain. I always believed that many species were named themselves after the worlds they evolved on, but then again I’m an attorney and not an explorer, so I could be wrong on that point.”
“If a sentient species had been discovered on Delta Erisandi three, then they would be addressed by whatever terminology they so wished. However, seeing as none were discovered and the full survey was left incomplete, we haven’t yet named the local fauna.”
Billings nodded thoughtfully, continuing to rock on his feet with his hands still behind him. “But did you?”
The Andorian captain scowled. “Did I what?”
“Did you believe that Commander Keller was wrong in her assessment of the local fauna?”
“They had made no effort to communicate with us and acted very much like animals of any of a hundred different planets.”
“Hmm,” Billings mused. There was a long pause. Finally, as the court martial panel behind him started to look annoyed, he asked, “You’re service record doesn’t show any substantial training or degrees in cultural anthropology, exobiology or linguistics—two of which Commander Keller has masters in. So what made you think you knew better than she did?”
That seemed to bring ch’Kass up short—had the setting been different, Keller would have laughed at look of discomfort on his face.
Clay was on her feet. “Objection. Captain ch’Kass is not the person whose actions are at fault here.”
Billings suddenly stopped rocking and spun around on the spot to face the three ranking officers behind him. “Commander Keller may be the one on trial for disobeying orders, but in order to explain why she felt it necessary to do so, we must first understand the circumstances and barriers she herself faced.”
The three on the bench looked between one another and muttered quietly to each other, before Hrag nodded and leaned forward. “We’re going to allow this, Commander, just be aware that our patience can only be tested for so long.”
“Thank you sir,” Billings stated with a deep nod.
Clay lowered herself back into her chair as Billings returned his full attention to ch’Kass. His sudden burst of activity had surprised Keller; in all her meetings with him, he had always seemed quite lethargic, so seeing him move at any kind of speed was a shock to the system—going by the reactions of several others in the room, they too had not expected it from him.
He resumed his rocking. “Well Captain? What made you think that you knew better than your Chief Science Officer, a woman who holds four masters degrees from Starfleet Academy?”
Ch’Kass shifted in his seat, trying to appear calm and controlled, but she could see he was seething. She had served under the Captain for the better part of five years, during which time he demonstrated to be a decisive and straight-forward leader though wasn’t particularly open to suggestions from others.
“Lieutenant Commander Keller is a good scientist, her academic record can attest to that, but that is also a drawback for her. She thinks like a scientist; studying, analysing and cataloguing everything. I have learned throughout my career to trust my instincts, something the Lieutenant Commander doesn’t.”
A faint smile crept over Billings’ face. “And yet she went to try and open a dialogue with the ‘local fauna’, because she thought she was right.”
Before ch’Kass could say anything more, Billings turned away from him. “No further questions,” he stated and returned to his seat, giving Keller a faint smile.
“You may step down, Captain,” Hrag instructed.
Ch’Kass nodded. He stood up and then shot a scowl towards Keller and Billings, before once again taking his seat beside Clay.
“We will have a recess until fourteen hundred hours, at which time we will hear from Lieutenant Commander Keller.” With that he tapped his gavel and the three officers behind the bench exited the courtroom. The rest of the assembled officers and specialists rose as they did and once they had left, they began to file out of the courtroom, each of them chattering among each other about the events of the day.
Keller and Billings waited until the room was empty—her escort would be standing outside for her. Once they were alone she gave him a smile.
“So how do we proceed?”
He fixed her with a serious look. “With the truth.”
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